Breaking the mould

The inaugural Virtual Reality Show will shake up the traditional exhibition format, says director Kerry Marks.

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Image: VFX pioneer Kevin Mack will present an incredible gallery of his fully immersive 360° virtual reality art experiences at the show.

 

When you think of virtual reality, what do you picture?

 

If, like EN, your main experience of virtual reality has been strapping your iPhone to a headset and walking down a random street on Google Maps, then you might be sceptical about the real-world applications of VR.

 

The first ever Virtual Reality Show, taking place in April 2017 at the Business Design Centre, is aiming to change all of that.

 

“Virtual reality is a wonderful tool for gaming and entertainment,” says director Kerry Marks. “But where it really becomes an interesting tool is in how it can support medical institutes and actually help people.”

 

Marks has worked in events for 12 years, specifically focusing on new technologies for the last six, so she’s far from a novice when it comes to putting on a successful exhibition.

 

They say that once you’ve learnt the rules, you can begin to break them, and so it makes sense that after more than a decade in events, Marks is putting on a show that might seem a tad unconventional.

 

Firstly, the show is part consumer and part trade, welcoming professionals from medical, military and editorial sectors on the first day of the show, then creative industries and members of the public on the last two days.

 

“The majority of VR shows out there are B2B,” Marks explains. “We wanted to offer an event that allowed individuals who work within creative industries to understand how the technology will impact them in the future.

 

“We’re trying to open the doors to all the people who haven’t thought about VR, but who are interested in how they might interact with the technology. If they have an interest in VR gaming but work in medicine they’ll arrive on the show floor and discover what medical and virtual reality are doing together.”

 

To drive consumer interest in virtual reality technology, she adds, it’s vital to make the general public aware of the sheer depth and breadth of the VR offering – far beyond gaming and strolling through Google Maps.

 

The second unusual element of the show is that rather than selling individual stands to potential exhibitors, Marks and her colleagues have reached out to specific companies to exhibit in the show’s feature areas. And each feature area has a specific focus, says Marks.

 

“In every vertical and application at least a handful of amazing projects are based around real-life content – that’s going to be incredibly valuable and important,” she explains.

 

The companies exhibiting in each area have created unique VR experiences for the show, allowing visitors maximum interaction with the technology. This will avoid too many similar exhibitors, guaranteeing visitors a diverse show experience.

 

“We’ve hand-selected all of the content on the show floor,” adds Marks. “We approached businesses that have content or projects that we think are really relevant to the current market.”

 

When visitors arrive at the Virtual Reality Show, Marks estimates there will be between 500 and 600 VR headsets on the show floor. This, along with talks and roundtables from VR professionals, will help to draw consumer visitors to the show, and convince them that the show is worth the ticket price.

 

It’s clear that the show will be a different type of exhibition, prioritising an immersive and interactive visitor experience over exhibitor numbers. It’s virtually a success, now it just needs to make that a reality.

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